Wednesday, June 25, 2014

#Asanonparent, here's what I think....

So, Peter McKay, Canada's federal Minister of Justice and (not insignificantly) new dad, has been having a rough few weeks.

First, he made some comments about why so few women are being appointed federal judges -- namely, that they simply aren't applying because of the "special bond" they have with their children.

Then, he got into a Twitter war with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, objecting to Trudeau's mention of legalizing marijuana to a group of students with a tweeted protest that began, "As a parent..."  This prompted a flurry of sarcastic responses under the hashtag #asaparent. (As I commented to Pamela at Silent Sorority, it reminded me of how she used to take articles that used the phrase "as a mom…” and then change them to “as an infertile…” -- sometimes with hilarious results.)

Then, some of McKay's messages to his staff members to mark Mother's Day & Father's Day were compared and contrasted -- and found wanting.  As reported in the Globe & Mail
Mr. MacKay’s Mother’s Day message to Justice Department staff, in recognizing those who hold “two full-time jobs” as colleagues and as mothers and caregivers, said that by the time many of them reach the office, they have “already changed diapers, packed lunches, run after school buses, dropped kids off at daycare, taken care of an aging loved one and maybe even thought about dinner.”

By contrast, the Father’s Day message spoke of “dedicated fathers, shaping the minds and futures of the next generation of leaders.” In both the Mother’s and Father’s Day messages, and in his meeting with the Ontario lawyers, he cited what he’d learned from his own experience as the married father of a toddler.
The more I thought about it (#asanonparent), the more I wondered about two things that nobody else seemed to be mentioning or asking: 

(a)  Since when have bosses started issuing workplace messages to their employees related to Mother's Day & Father's Day?  (The only holiday I can ever remember where the higher-ups issued some kind of message or commentary was Christmas/New Year's/"the holidays" -- and that was abandoned quite some time ago.) 


(b)  How many of the minister's staff members don't have children (quite a few, I would guess) -- and what words of praise & wisdom & recognition did he have to offer them?

McKay is still in his 40s, newly married to a highly accomplished woman and, as noted, a new dad.  Presumably, he should know better.  On the other hand, consider the party he belongs to and the company he keeps...

On the plus side, these events have inspired some great comment & opinion pieces in the press.
There's Tabitha Southey's wry commentary in the Globe & Mail:  
Compound all that with the self-righteous “As a parent...” and we have Russian nesting dolls of wrongness! As if people without children have no desire to see the country run well. Were all the minister’s opinions suspect before the birth of his son a year ago?...

But in general, and I say this as a parent, lots of us are morons, and those who sling our children about like moral cudgels are in the wrong – and what a vast land Mr. MacKay is proving the wrong to be!

...Basically, to hear Minister MacKay explain it, our Federal Courts are run by dozens of baby-eating Greek Titans – it’s all Kronoses over there with the occasional Joan Crawford thrown in.
And (needless to say) I adored this piece by Susan Delacourt in the Toronto Star, with insights such as:
...perhaps we should be asking how parenthood has become some kind of blanket assurance of noble motives in politics. Or why we assume that the mere fact of having children — not exactly a unique condition in human experience — gives a person a heightened capacity for compassion.

For parents or non-parents, isn’t the true test of empathy your ability to see yourself in someone else’s shoes — someone who doesn’t look or act or live like you? On this score, we have no reason to believe that Canadian parents are more, or less, caring than any other kind of people in the population.

...Being a parent is without a doubt something to celebrate, but it shouldn’t be a stick to whack political opponents. Nor should it be the price of admission to a conversation about what’s best for Canadian families — with kids or without them.


  1. So closely mirrors my own reaction to his 2 email messages.
    A) why send m/f's day message?
    B) what are staff demographics? Does the message even apply?

    I was annoyed as a mom in a 2 parent family. But more importantly I was offended as an infertile non-amnesiac.

  2. How wonderful to see this debate out in the mainstream, rather than tucked away in our blogs!

    I particularly liked this ... "But in general, and I say this as a parent, lots of us are morons, ..." It put a smile on my face.

  3. refreshing to read those words...and the moron part made me chuckle (surprised in a good way) he he he...

  4. My objection was about just what he thought men's and women's role were in childrearing? Apparently he doesn't change diapers and make lunches or physically take care of anyone but himself. And that's not his job either, right?

  5. I loved Susan Delacourt' article!

  6. Yes! As a 'child-free by choice' woman of 54, I have to say that the phrase gets my goat almost more than any other. When I hear uttered (unfortunately too often) "Yes, but as a PARENT / Mother..." my hackles rise. Without fail it feels like a socially acceptable way of saying 'I'll take your ignorant uninformed point of view and trump you irrecoverably with my parent card'. Janine

  7. Love, Love, LOVE Susan and Tabitha's commentary and observations, and so agree with you and Mali that it's refreshing to see these issues discussed and challenged in the mainstream media. Thanks, too, for the shoutout. I so enjoyed the lampooning of the sanctimonious "as a mom's ... AS IF their status conferred greater wisdom or importance. The prejudice about those of us who don't tick the mom or dad box always astounds me.

  8. This is great! I echo all of the comments... And agree whole heartedly with awomanmyage - it appears that his wife does everything and he is a lazy, selfish asshole at home?